An LXDE-like desktop made with Qt

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Kheng Ho Toh, 123RF

Kheng Ho Toh, 123RF

Let There Be Light

LXQt is a lightweight desktop environment based on Qt 5. The similarities to LXDE are no accident.

When dealing with Linux desktops, the letter "L" usually stands for "light." This is especially true for the two lightweight X11 desktop environments, LXDE and LXQt. Actually, the latter is halfway to becoming a complete desktop environment, as is apparent from its current version 0.11.0. However, you shouldn't let the halfway mark fool you into thinking that LXQt is anything other than absolutely usable in its current state of development. I discuss this status below.

LXDE and Razor-qt

Before delving into that topic, I want to first provide a brief overview of how the program came into being. Developers started the desktop project LXDE [1] in 2006, taking it upon themselves to create a lightweight desktop based on GTK. It was supposed to consume fewer resources than even XFCE, which was already very lean.

In 2010, some Russian developers took note of the project. They appreciated the features that KDE and the Qt framework brought to the table, but they wanted a more lightweight version. They started the Razor-qt project [2] based on Qt 4. Progress was comparatively slow due to time restrictions experienced by the project participants.

Finally, after three years, the developers of LXDE and Razor-qt decided by consensus to implement an extra lean Qt desktop, LXQt [3]. The reasoning behind this decision was that finished parts of LXDE could simply be ported from GTK to Qt. Thus the developers would avoid rewriting parts of LXDE that were already in place.

A first version was released in May 2014. It's name, LXQt 0.7.0, was styled after Razor-qt. The developers achieved Qt 5 compatibility with the next release 0.8.0. This in turn made it possible for LXQt 0.9 to incorporate some of the libraries that had been modularized during the development of KDE Frameworks 5. This move did away with the need for LXQt-specific libraries.

Consequently, the KWindowSystem replaced the XfitMan in Razor-qt as the means for handling window events in the lxqt-panel , lxqt-runner , lxqt-session , lxqt-notificationd , and lxqt-session modules. This signified an important advance toward future compatibility with Wayland, the display server for Linux that will eventually replace the aging X Window server.

The developers made it their goal for LXQt 0.10.0, which was released at the end of 2015, to smooth out the code. They managed to get rid of more than 400 errors, added dozens of translations, and integrated both of the Qt frameworks Solid and Libkscreen. In the process, Solid replaced the Liblxqt mount and Kf5IdleTime took over parts of the power management. Libkscreen, which is likewise compatible with Wayland, assumed the task of administering displays.

Using Siduction

I took a look at the current 64-bit LXQt 0.11.0 (Figure 1). Immediately after starting, the new LXQt version takes up 258MB of space in main memory. On the hard drive, the size of the program is 3.4GB. The 32-bit version has an even smaller memory footprint.

Figure 1: LXQt 0.11.0 has a classic desktop setup with fonts, wallpaper, and icons.

You can customize practically every inch of LXQt 0.11.0 using the updates and extensions that are offered. For instance, the file manager pcmanfm-qt (Figure 2) can now save folder-specific settings, and the address bar has auto-complete. The menu at the top of the application can be hidden; the panel at the bottom of the display has been upgraded to group applications and also be hidden.

Figure 2: The developers have expanded pcmanfm-qt with the addition of folder-specific settings.

The developers have made significant improvements to the dialog used to create additional bars. The dialog menu now offers a search field. Another item of interest in LXQt 0.11.0 is the application Pavucontrol-Qt , which includes almost all of the mixer settings from Pavucontrol for PulseAudio.

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